Preview: West Coast v Carlton
WHERE AND WHEN: Patersons Stadium, Thursday June 14, 5.40pm
LAST TIME: West Coast 15.11 (101) d Carlton 15.8 (98), first semi-final, 2011, at Patersons Stadium
TV, RADIO AND BETTING: Click here for broadcast guide and odds
Thursday night's standalone clash is the first time these teams have met since last year's thrilling semi-final clash at Patersons Stadium, and it's a match that will have September repercussions. The Eagles (8-2) will be looking to emerge from their bye and return to the top two, while Carlton's finals hopes go on the line after four losses in five games.
THE FOUR POINTS
1. What lessons has West Coast taken out of a shock loss to the Brisbane Lions in round 10 and how will the players respond? Falling to the 14th-placed Lions, followed by a week off, has seen the Eagles drop from first to third on the ladder, also surrendering premiership favouritism. That may well be a blessing, but only if the team can respond this week and eventually regain the top-two place coach John Worsfold believes is required to win the premiership.
2. The Eagles have enjoyed an 11-day preparation for Carlton, with the players taking two days off early last week before jumping straight back into training. Carlton, meanwhile, will be rebounding from its third consecutive six-day break. Worsfold this week played down the advantage his team will enjoy, but the Eagles' two wins following their byes last year suggest they will benefit from the extra time to prepare.
3. How will the Eagles replace suspended half-back Beau Waters? The career-best form of Waters has given West Coast a dangerous rebounding option when the opposition targets Shannon Hurn, with the 26-year-old ranking No. 1 at the club for marks and No. 2 (behind Hurn) for rebound 50s. Sam Butler, Ash Smith or Lewis Stevenson could step into the team, but the class and hardness of Waters will be missed.
4. As a run-with player, Scott Selwood was one of West Coast's most valuable weapons against Carlton last year, holding Chris Judd to 17 possessions in each of the team's two clashes. But Selwood has become one of the Eagles prime ball-winners this season, ranking No. 1 at the club for overall disposals and No. 2 (behind Matt Priddis) for clearances and contested possessions. Will he take on a more defensive role, given his record against the Blues' captain?
1. Have the Blues turned the corner? Brett Ratten has been unflinching in his positivity despite losing to Geelong last week because he believes he saw enough in the performance to suggest Carlton is headed in the right direction after four losses in five weeks. His side won the contested possession count and the clearances against the Cats and it will be a key area of focus against the Eagles.
2. The fitness of Andrew Carrazzo and Heath Scotland could be the difference between defeat and victory for the Blues. The side has desperately missed Carrazzo's hardness at the contest since he broke a shoulder blade in round four and Scotland's poise and distribution coming out of the back half would have been handy against the Cats, but he missed with a calf strain. Both have travelled with the team, but face late fitness tests.
3. The weather could play a big part in the final make-up of each team with Perth going through a wet spell and more rain forecast for Thursday. The Blues have taken their three ruckmen to Perth, but also took all three of their emergencies along just in case the heavens open in the hours before the first bounce. This also provides insurance if Carrazzo or Scotland don't come up and also for Robbie Warnock, who was subbed out with a sore hip last week.
4. It hasn't happened too often since Chris Judd crossed to Carlton, but Ratten was forced to defend the form of his skipper before flying out for Perth on Tuesday. Judd has shouldered a heavy workload in the absence of fellow onballers Carrazzo and Marc Murphy and it's fair to say that his numbers have dropped away over the past month. He hasn't had more than 25 touches in his past four games and has one goal over that stretch. He'll need to lift his game another couple of notches to get a win against his old side.